Criminal defence lawyer Gary Batasar’s stroke of luck began with a search for a pair of size 2 Converse high tops for his youngest daughter who needed the shoes for a dance recital.
A pair of size 2 Converse shoes costs somewhere around $30. But a lottery ticket Batasar picked up while shopping at the Erin Mills Town Centre in Mississauga, Ont., turned out to have a value of $1 million.
“I said, ‘Holy smokes!’” says the Brampton, Ont., lawyer who didn’t check the winning ticket until weeks later on June 18.
“I had to look a few times at the self-checker,” he says. “I sat there and I counted the zeros three times. I cannot believe I won the lottery.”
He adds: “It’s an out-of-body experience. People talk about it, but you don’t understand until you’ve gone through it. It’s so surreal.”
Batasar, who describes himself as “a simple guy,” went to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. to collect the big cheque the next day.
Batasar says he had been buying lottery tickets for eight months and notes he has already invested his newly acquired fortune in mutual funds. The father of three says hitting the jackpot takes some of the pressure off of paying for this children’s education. He’s hoping to get “a good 10- or 12-per-cent” interest per year on his investment.
“I got three kids, so I look at it as . . . this is their university, their law school paid for,” he says, adding he can now “take it easy to some extent.”
After having his picture taken with a giant blue cheque at the lottery offices, Batasar says he couldn’t resist a little prank on his wife and some friends. With some Photoshop work, Batasar altered the cheque on the photo to reflect a $14-million win.
The doctored photo ended up spreading on social media, causing some confusion and even a hint of jealousy from others, he says. While some people have been genuinely happy for him on his $1-million win, he says “the sense of reluctant congratulations was palpable” among others, including lawyers.
“I suppose some, upon reflection, should do some introspection to ask themselves why they reacted the way they did about such a happy event,” he says.
“If I knew one of my contemporaries won the lottery, I would be happy for them and if I knew I also got pranked, I would think it was brilliantly hilarious that at such a crazy time he or she could still have a sense of humour.”
Batasar’s friend and fellow lawyer Robert Christie describes him as “a generous guy” who likes helping out colleagues. “If your kids have a fundraiser or something is happening, he’s the first guy to reach into his pocket and say, ‘Here’s $50,’ or whatever,” he says.
“And that’s before he won the money,” Christie adds with a chuckle.
Batasar practises in Peel Region where he says he serves a high volume of clients at Peel Law Chambers. Among his high-profile matters was his work as the defence lawyer for one of the accused in the Toronto 18 terrorism case.